Over-the-top audio and video services emerged as the most popular internet use case in India in 2023, with 86% of India’s over 800 million internet users or 707 million people reporting using the internet for consuming them, new research by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and marketing data and analytics firm KANTAR found.

According to the Internet in India Report 2023, rural India is driving use-cases across OTT, communications, social media, online gaming, net commerce, digital payments, and online learning, accounting for more than 50% of the user base for each.

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But around half of the people in rural India are still non-active internet users, the report found, with difficulty in understanding the internet, lack of awareness of its benefits, and lack of interest being top reasons, followed by not being allowed to use it and expense.

“The rise of digital entertainment services is also bolstered by the rise of non-traditional devices (smart TV, smart speakers, Firesticks, Chromecasts, Blue-Ray etc) that has witnessed a growth of 58% between 2021-23 at all India level,” the report said.

It added that the adoption is driven for the first time by a new generation ‘cordcutters’ – the 208 million users accessing video content over internet-only devices, compared to the 181 million who consume it over conventional linear TV.

The second- and third-most popular use cases are communications, with 621 million users, and social media with 575 million users.

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“While net commerce, digital payment and online learning are more urban-centric activities, other activities like OTT, communication, social media and online gaming are more democratised,” the report noted.The use of voice-based commands across activities like listening to music, watching videos, online search etc. is gaining popularity, the report said, with 130 million voice users.

The total active internet users in 2023 saw a ‘milestone’, surpassing 800 million to reach 820 million, indicating that over 55% of Indians used the internet last year, the report said.

Overall, internet penetration grew moderately at 8% year-on-year, with rural India with 442 million users accounting for over 53% of the total base.

There has been a deceleration, however, with the 8% growth rate down from 11% in 2021 and 10% in 2022. Rural India, which had been driving internet growth rates for the last several years, grew 11% in 2023 compared to 15% in 2021 and 14% in 2022, lowering the overall rate, the report said.

The report suggested that a focus on Indic languages could be a way to accelerate growth, as 57% users were found to prefer accessing content in Indic languages, with languages such as Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam having the strongest language preference.

States with the lowest internet user base showed some of the highest growth rates – a ‘matter of optimism’, the report said. For instance, Jharkhand (46% penetration) and Bihar (37% penetration) saw above average growth rates of 12% and 17%, respectively.

Goa, Maharashtra and Kerala were the states with highest penetration, at 73%, 69% and 69%, respectively.

The gender gap has narrowed over the years, the report noted. The male-to-female ratio of internet users improved from 71:29 in 2015 to 54:46 in recent times, ‘almost at par with the overall sex ratio of the addressable population in the country’, it said.

Around 90% of internet users use it daily, spending an average of around 1.5 hours online. The share of users accessing internet using shared devices however increased from 8% in 2021 to 18% in 2023, with 63% of rural users, 77% of women users and 43% of users above 35 years old using someone else’s device.

The study surveyed 90,000 households across all states and union territories of India except Lakshadweep.


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